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9 questions you must ask your architect

Asking your architect the right questions is key to a successful home improvement

You’ve chosen your architect for your home renovation, and you’re ready to get down to business. Any design project will be the result of many conversations between the two of you and you want to make sure those conversations are as productive as possible.

1. Do you have references?

This one is highly recommended. Ask your architect about past clients and contractors they’ve worked with, and then follow up on the references they give. Knowing that you’re working with a dependable firm from the get-go will spare you potential headaches caused by an unreliable firm.

2. How much time do I need to commit, and when?

Architects deal with clients are are hands-off and clients who want to be involved in the nitty gritty decisions. Be clear about the type of client you are, and ask your architect the kind of time commitment they expect from you.

When you and your architect are on the same page from the beginning, it makes the project move smoothly.

3. How can I be helpful in the process?

Not sure what type of client you are going to be, or how involved you will want to be with your architecture firm? Then ask!

Having a thorough conversation at the beginning of the process with a vision in place and personal preferences on hand helps the architect hone in on the right solution.

4. What's your fee structure and what can I expect in costs?

Architects use different fee structures to charge for their services, and any reputable firm will be able to lay this out right away. On your end, be open about your budget, cost limitations are extremely critical, since quality work can be very expensive.

You also want to make sure your architect is open with you about the additional costs that may not be spelled out in your contract. These are often additional construction administration hours or amendments to the drawings due to changes during construction.

5. What are the important issues, considerations, and challenges of my project?

Get the big picture view from your architect, picking their brain about what particular elements stand out. They’ll have insight about construction, city approvals, and design challenges you may not have been aware of.

It’s also worth asking if the firm has previously tackled a similar project to yours. Every project type has its ups and downs and experience with these is essential. It’s knowing how to solve the problems and knowing what worked last time as well as what didn't."

6. What will you show along the way to explain the project?

Ask your architect how he or she will be showing your project to you before the construction process starts. Will there be models, drawings, computer animations? This is a good time to bounce around ideas, express critiques, and make adjustments.

Ask for sketches of alternative designs, request samples or showroom visits to get a realistic feel for various possibilities.

7. What’s your role with the contractor?

Once construction starts, much of the project will be in the hands of your contractor. Many architecture firms will recommend contractors they have a good track record with, but you’ll want to ask how the firm plans to work with them during your project. What role does the architect plan to take on with the contractor, or will you be expected to deal with the contractor directly?

8. Who’s on my team?

Often, there are many different people at an architecture firm that will contribute to your project. Ask for introductions.

Learning more about the team that will be working with you is also incredibly important. Very often you will meet a principal that you love, but are working with a project manager 75 percent of the time that is too junior or that you don't gel with.

Questions to ask, Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing your project?"

9. How can we reduce the environmental impact?

Most architecture firms are happy to work with you to design more environmentally sustainable buildings, and there’s a chance the firm will integrate low or no cost sustainable design strategies into your project. If it’s something you’re interested in, ask your architect about the type of green design they have experience with, and what the pros and cons may be moving ahead with it.



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